by Paul Rignell
When Republican delegates from Minnesota’s 6th District met April 12 at Monticello High School, they were aware they were tasked with something new for the first time in eight years.
The party’s delegates from St. Cloud and most of Stearns County, to the north and east suburban Anoka and Washington counties, knew they were up for endorsing someone for the U.S. House other than Rep. Michele Bachmann, whom after her election in 2006 became a national Republican leader and ran for president of the United States early in 2012.
As Bachmann, of Stillwater, addressed her supporters in the Monticello school auditorium after they had filled ballots for endorsement, she was pleased to announce enough of them had voted for Tom Emmer as their candidate to take her place in Congress.
Emmer, of Delano, was the party’s front-running state candidate in 2010 as he challenged Mark Dayton for the office of governor. Emmer was completing his third term in the Minnesota House of Representatives at that time. He had entered the Legislature with a background as a trial attorney, and he previously served on city councils in Independence and Delano.
Emmer has entered the media since 2010, becoming a talk show host on Twin Cities News Talk AM 1130.
Fourteen caucuses from across the 6th District could send a total of 345 delegates to Monticello, and one candidate needed 60 percent support, or 207 of their votes, to win endorsement.
Bachmann noted Emmer won with 76 percent on the first ballot.
A video presentation preceded Bachmann’s address, and the video featured well wishes from more than a dozen other political leaders and 6th District residents as she prepares to finish her service in Congress.
Neither the first nor last speaker from the video is a stranger to celebrity, as the greetings began with comments from film actor and Bachmann supporter Jon Voight while former comedy writer and Minnesota’s junior U.S. Sen. Al Franken concluded the video.
As Franken is regarded as a liberal Democrat with views often opposite of Bachmann’s, his image and voice drew largely mixed reactions from the auditorium filled with staunch Republicans.
He was gracious, however, in thanking Bachmann for representing Minnesota, and Franken jokingly reflected on moments when they agreed on issues. Through nearly a minute of thought, he eventually said he was proud to have joined Bachmann in supporting a new commuter bridge for connecting Stillwater with western Wisconsin.
Franken also commended Bachmann for her last recipe in the Minnesota congressional delegation’s annual “hot dish contest,” where state Democrats such as Tim Walz and Amy Klobuchar have joined Republicans including John Kline and Erik Paulsen for a few hours of kitchen work in place of Capitol floor debates.
Once with the microphone in Monticello, Bachmann said she has kept her promises in Congress. “What I told you I would do eight years ago, I did. It’s now my time to go and pass the baton,” she said, adding that she believes 6th District delegates made the right choice by endorsing Emmer. “I believe that there is no success without a successor,” Bachmann said.
She gladly greeted Emmer, his wife Jacquie and their seven children, all in attendance as Emmer took a moment to thank delegates for their support.
“I want to work for you and I want to work with you,” he said. “Today, more than ever, we have to be together,” he added, in a repeated plea for party unity. “The 6th District has been left in great hands.”
Emmer said Republicans in the district could lead an effort “to move Minnesota and this country in the right direction, in our direction, elect a Republican governor and elect a U.S. senator we can be proud of.”
According to party district leaders, the only other Republican candidate who was vetted on adherence to the party platform before the April 12 endorsement was Rhonda Sivarajah, of Lino Lakes, who has served on the Anoka County Board since 2003 and has chaired that board’s proceedings since 2011.
She received less than one-fourth of delegates’ votes in Monticello, but she announced previously and continues to vow that she will file for office to challenge Emmer in a party primary Aug. 12. She will likely be joined by former state representative Phil Krinkie in that primary, who is also seeking to fill the Republican ticket this fall.
“Our fellow Republicans (in the 6th District) deserve a voice,” Sivarajah told delegates during her address before their vote. “For conservatives, that should always be a good thing.”
Sivarajah said later in an interview with ECM Publications that there are parents and other adults working multiple jobs, along with military personnel and other strong servants, who cannot afford the early time to be active in local and congressional district caucuses.
“Not everyone is involved in that process, because they are unable to do so. … There are a whole host of reasons,” Sivarajah said by phone. “I really think that, for me, it’s important to go to a primary in effort to expand the Republican base. I think it’s a great way to engage additional voters in the process.”
Still this spring for the 6th District’s party delegates, they will join other Republican delegates from across the state at a late May convention in Rochester. The state delegates will make endorsements for the U.S. Senate, for the governor’s race and for other state executive offices.
Delegates in Monticello heard other speeches from 14 candidates who are also heading for Rochester to seek endorsements in the races for U.S. Senate, governor, state auditor and secretary of state.